Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Socks for All

I’m happily wearing a freshly knit pair of socks today. The pastel socks that I’ve written about over the last two weeks are done!

Pink and Multi-Colored Pastel Hand Knit Socks on Feet

They fit perfectly and make me smile when I see them. It was an enjoyable and relaxing project, which was exactly what I needed for this busy time of year.

I also started another quick project this week:

A Set of Four Green Wool Hand Knit Chair Socks

Seeing the pieces like that makes me giggle. Can you guess what they are?

Our dining room has a wooden floor, so we have self-adhesive felt disks on the feet of the chairs. With one chair in particular, the disks continually come off. Tired of the hassle, I made a set of chair socks!

A Set of Green Hand Knit Socks on a Chair

Most patterns that you can find online call for chair socks to be only about three inches long, but the feet on our chairs have wide shapes that are a little trickier to fit. The socks for the narrower back feet are about 4.5 inches long, while the bulkier front feet needed socks that are about 5 1/2 inches long. I used some wool from my stash, Full o’ Sheep from Stitch Nation by Debbie Stoller in the colorway Meadow (now discontinued), on US-5 (3.75 mm) double point needles. Each sock is a simple K2, P2 rib worked in the round with enough stitches to snugly fit on the chair legs.

Top View of Socks on Back Legs of Dining Chair

So far, the chair socks are doing the trick; they’re staying on and preventing the floor from being scuffed. Although it was a quick project for one chair, I want to give it a few weeks before I decide whether to make socks for the other five dining room chairs. I want to be sure that the yarn holds up relatively well so knitting chair socks doesn’t become my new ongoing hassle.

I wish you all a safe and happy New Year. Here's to a wonderful 2017!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Warm Socks, Warm Heart

I was expecting to write about the progress I made at Quilt Night, hand-stitching the binding onto my queen-sized quilt, but the weather delayed us again. We didn’t have freezing rain this time, but there was enough ice already on the roads to make driving treacherous. We’ve rescheduled our holiday-themed get-together for well into January.

Meanwhile, I have been working slowly on the binding at home. I’m about a quarter of the way around the quilt. It feels good to make progress, but it doesn’t make for exciting photos or blog posts.

In Progress Binding a Quilt

I’ve also been making headway on the pastel-colored socks that I started last week. The first sock is complete and I’m on to sock number two! The pattern is simple, which makes for quick knitting and generally error-free progress. And after all of the back-and-forth on colors last week, I’m still happy with my decision for the final color combination.

Pink Knit Sock on Foot with Knitting in Background

If you look closely, you may notice that the pink yarn has more of a texture to it than the multi-colored yarn does. In 2009, I used the pink yarn to make socks for my daughter.

Pink Hand Knit Lace Socks on the Feet of a Child

By 2013, the socks were outgrown but the yarn was still in excellent shape, so I frogged the socks to reuse the yarn — and this is that yarn. Despite a few good soaks, it’s still holding some of the shape from the previous stitches. The color has also dulled a bit with use and washing.

The history of the pink yarn makes the new socks a little extra-special for me. I’ll remember the yarn on those little feet every time I wear the socks.

I hope you all have a warm and wonderful holiday season!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

A Change of Plans

Last week was busy, with a lot of time spent in front of the computer. That translated to not a lot of time hand-stitching; my eyes can’t handle that much concentrated work. I was counting on getting a lot of the binding done on my quilt at Quilt Night, but the weather had other plans. Freezing rain moved our get-together to this coming Friday instead.

That change led to another change, and I decided to start a knitting project. For the most part, knitting doesn’t require as much from my eyes as hand-stitching does. And I recently came across some yarn in my stash that's been calling my name ever since.

Four skeins of wool sock yarn on a white background: yellow, pink, multi-colored pastel, and ivory.

I love this combination of yarn colors. The yellow is Cascade Yarns Cascade 220 Fingering in 7827 Goldenrod, the pink is Shibui Knits Sock in 1765 Blossom, and the white is Heart & Sole with Aloe by Red Heart in 3115 Ivory. The mutli-colored yarn — the yarn that I couldn’t get out of my head once I rediscovered it — is Anne by Schaefer Yarn Company, although the label is long gone so I don’t know the colorway. I envisioned the colors coming together playfully.

My first thought was to make socks, but the light colors gave me pause. There’s so much potential for socks to get dirty! My next thought was gloves or mittens, but I would end up with the same problem of the light colors showing dirt. I toyed with a few other ideas and ultimately came back to the socks.

I wanted to keep it simple, so I started knitting the socks with a basic horizontal stripe, alternating colors every two rows. The yellow, which I thought would add a bright pop of color, became very mustard-like in the knitting; it was surprising how much the yellow dulled down the whole project and sucked out the playfulness. Once again, I was so intent on moving on that I forgot to take a picture to share; I need to remember to do that more often!

Hand knit socks in progress with multi-colored pastel wool yarn on bamboo double point needles in front of a white background.

Time for yet another change; I frogged the sock and started over with just two yarns. The pink will be the cuff, heel and toe of the sock, and the multicolored yarn will be the leg and the foot. The pattern is Garter Rib by Charlene Schurch in the book “Sensational Knitted Socks.”

I haven’t gotten very far yet after all of those changes, but I’m happy with this combination. I’m excited to see how the socks turn out!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Quilts and Tree Skirts

This week, I have been busy hand-quilting the queen-sized quilt that I’ve mentioned before. The binding is machine-stitched on, and I hope to finish hand-stitching the other side of the binding at Quilt Night this Friday. No pictures for now because there should be a "ta-da" post very soon!

Handquilting hasn’t been my only project this week, but the other project comes with a backstory.

Years ago, I sewed a tree skirt for our Christmas tree. At the time, we had a hand-me-down tree stand for a real tree, and I made the skirt to fit over that stand. A year later, the stand decided it didn’t want to hold trees upright any longer. The new tree stand was taller to give the tree more support; it pulled the original tree skirt up so high that there wasn’t much “skirt” left so I made another one in a different pattern. A few years later, as the price of real trees skyrocketed in our area, we switched to an artificial tree and I made our third tree skirt. The pattern is an adapted version of Crazy Heart Tree Skirt from the book “Merry Christmas Quilts.” (I'm not affiliated with any companies linked in this post, by the way.)

Top view of crazy quilt tree skirt with green print center and red-outlined light gold print hearts on a light wood background.

The stand for the artificial tree has a motor inside for some subtle fiber optics, which means that the tree skirt cannot cover the stand due to the risk of fire. After making so many tree skirts I was happy to finally make one that would fit any tree and stand combination; the current tree skirt doesn’t have a hole in the middle and it sits under the tree stand.

Detail of hand embroidery on crazy quilt tree skirt with light gold prints and red edging on a light wood background.

As our children were born, I embroidered each of their names by hand onto the tree skirt. Last year, I decided that my name and my husband’s name should be on there as well. This week, I hand-stitched our names. Now it's truly ready to go under the tree.

Elephant Abstractions quilt pattern on a white background.

I also picked up a new quilting pattern recently. My husband is a big fan of University of Alabama football, whose mascot is an elephant. I couldn’t resist the Elephant Abstractions quilt pattern by Violet Craft.

Next up will be searching out just the right gray fabrics. I also have a fun idea for another version of this quilt, but I’ll need to get through it once first before I commit to a second round.

Frayed red baseball cap with the words "Makers Gonna Make" on the front surrounded by sparkles.

As a final note, I was at a holiday market this weekend and this baseball cap made me smile. I love the contrast of the frayed hat and the bling inside the oval. This could almost turn me into a hat person!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Making with Thread

Many years ago, I bought some white size 10 J&P Coats Knit-Cro-Sheen cotton thread and a Leisure Arts leaflet, #2880, to make some coasters. I had inherited some crocheted thread coasters and a doily from my grandmother and wanted to add to the collection. There were only two problems with that plan: my crochet skills were minimal and I didn’t have anyone nearby to teach me.

Vintage handmade white cotton crochet doily and coaster on a light wood background.

Fast forward to last year. We were preparing for a road trip, and I decided it was time to finally use the thread. The Reusable Produce Bag by Tia Stanfield caught my eye on Ravelry. The pattern calls for a thicker size 3 cotton, but I didn’t think it would hurt anything to have lighter, airier bags.

I thought the beginning of the produce bag pattern was a little fussy as written. After the base, I found it was easier to start knitting in the round with double-point needles instead of the circular needle recommended in the pattern, and switch to a circular needle later in the project. But, in general, I prefer double-points to circulars so take that with a grain of salt. Overall, I enjoyed the pattern and I'm happy with the results.

I made two and a half produce bags during our road trip, and the project sat once we returned home. Part of that is because I realized that while I like the idea of reusable produce bags, I rarely remember to take them with me into the store. They keep the center console of my vehicle well insulated! This week, I decided it was time to finish the third produce bag to free up those needles. The result is this small bag, which is still a pretty good size.

Hand knit white cotton lace produce bag with apples inside and next to it on a white background.

I had a partial ball of leftover thread, so I revisited the coasters. My crochet skills have improved over the years, and I approached the project with more confidence. The leaflet is called “Coasters with Heart” and the seven patterns each feature a heart in some way. I made four coasters as written, and adapted a fifth coaster as my thread supply dwindled.

Five white cotton crochet coasters in various heart-inspired designs on a light wood background.

I’m happy with the way they turned out, although they’re large for coasters and definitely don’t coordinate with the smaller, finer coasters I inherited. The two larger circles are almost seven inches across, and the squares are almost six inches. The only one that is what I think of as coaster size is the adapted circle, which is just over four inches.

Three handmade white cotton crochet coasters next to each other a a light wood background, showing their relative sizes.

I may try these again someday with a finer thread. In the meantime, I'll keep my eyes open for other patterns that remind me of my inherited pieces.

What have you been inspired by recently?

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

A Tale of Two Hats

I’m not entirely sure where to start with this post so I’ll start at the end: I made a hat then I re-made it.

I’m one of the many who adore the Baa-ble Hat by Donna Smith. I didn’t get to it last year, but this week I rediscovered the pattern nestled in with my handspun yarn, enticing me to revisit the project. I was challenged to find yarns with the right combination of fiber, weight, and colors. And I wanted to use stash, particularly handspun.

Hand knit wool hat with ivory and black sheep motif surrounded by dark orange above and green below on a white background.

The yarns that stood out to me were two skeins of Wensleydale handspun, a green and a rusty orange. Wensleydale may be my favorite fiber to spin. It is a wool with a wavy crimp, brilliant luster, and long staple length, but it's not recommended for wearing against the skin because it can feel prickly. I purchased it as a dyed “cloud,” which means it was a disorganized mass of colored locks. It was fun to allow the curls in the fiber to choose how they wanted to settle into becoming yarn.

The rest of the yarns weren’t as easy to select. I don’t have any light-colored handspun right now, so I chose two commercial ivory-colored yarns: one for the sheep, and another for the “flowers” and “stars.” The yarn for the dark areas was the most difficult to select. Darks blended too much with the green, midtones blended too much with the orange, and lights blended too much with the sheep. I picked a rosy-beige that seemed to stand out enough.

Four skeins of yarn on a white background in dark orange, ivory, rose, and green.

That hat did not turn out well. The ivory yarn for the “flowers” and “stars” was a shimmery DK-weight merino/nylon blend. The rosy-beige yarn was another smooth, delicate yarn. Neither of these yarns had the heft to hold their own against the Wensleydale; the stitches either disappeared or were elongated far out of proportion. The white stood out too starkly against the green and orange, while the rosy-beige all but disappeared.

In addition, comments on the pattern warned that it knit up large, so I had gone down a needle size. Apparently I knit stranded colorwork very loosely because the ribbing was the perfect size while the rest of the hat puffed up like the top of a cupcake. I was so disappointed that I didn’t even think to take a photo before I ripped back to the top of the ribbing.

For the second attempt, I used the smaller needle size throughout. I decided not to include the “flowers” and “stars” because the Wensleydale is lovely enough on its own. I swapped the delicate rosy-beige yarn for a basic worsted-weight wool in black, which is strong enough both in color and fiber makeup to hold its own against the Wensleydale. The only other change I made was to cut back on the ribbing rows so the brim doesn’t fold up; this was a practical choice based on the amount of green I had.

Child in front of a light gray background wearing hand knit wool hat with ivory and black sheep motif surrounded by dark orange above and green below.

I’m very happy with the result. The hat looks a little large here because I only had a child available to model, but for an adult head it fits nicely. It will look sharp with my black winter coat. I’m almost looking forward to colder weather!

How are you preparing for the change in seasons?

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

A Twist at the End

Winter weather is almost here, and I’ve been in the mood for another woolen knitting project. A skein of Classic Elite Yarns Alpaca Sox from my stash caught my eye. The colorway is Shaded Lilacs #1865 and it’s a remarkably soft blend of 60% alpaca, 20% merino wool, and 20% nylon.

Detail of a skein of wool sock yarn in greens, blues and purples on a white background.

I went back and forth trying to decide what to make. Mittens or gloves? A scarf or cowl? Socks? Ultimately, based on the colors, I went with socks — which is most likely what I had in mind when I originally purchased the yarn.

Hand knit wool socks in progress on bamboo needles in blues, purples and greens on a white background.

In choosing the pattern, I didn’t want the stitches to get lost in the color changes. I’ve had success in the past with Slip-Stitch Cable Socks from “The Little Box of Socks” by Charlene Schurch and Beth Parrott. I decided to use it again, with the knowledge that the structure of the cables makes the circumference of this pattern lose some stretch. With an 8.5-inch foot circumference, making the 10.75-inch Men’s Medium on US-2 (2.75 mm) needles instead of the US-4 (3.5 mm) needles called for in the pattern gave me a good fit.

Wooden darning egg and mushroom on white background.

The last time I made a pair of socks, as I was weaving the end on the toe I started to wonder why I don’t use a darning egg for the task. On some level, I guess I think of my darning tools as just for darning. And yet, I weave in ends using Duplicate Stitch, also known as Swiss Darning. This time, I pulled out my darning egg and I’m so glad I did! It seemed like the task was completed more quickly, and it was easier to maintain the proper tension. I used the darning mushroom while weaving in the end at the cuff, and it was tricky to keep the sock from sliding around but still seemed easier somehow.

I also learned an important lesson while knitting these socks: Don’t knit with dilated eyes.

I had an eye exam yesterday, and thought I could finish decreasing the toe of the second sock mostly by feel. It was going along smoothly until I grabbed the wrong needle and pulled it off the knitting. Now, this clearly wasn’t directly related to the dilation because even when dilated it’s easy enough to see whether a light-colored needle has dark stitches on it. But I wasn’t focused and was fumbling around a bit, and that’s how accidents happen. At that point, I thought it best to put the knitting down and step away.

Bottom view of foot wearing hand knit wool sock in blues, greens and purples on a white background.

I was able to complete the second sock after a short break, and I’m enjoying wearing them today! What successes have you achieved with your recent projects?

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Making Discoveries

This week was fun in that I kept making little discoveries.

I needed to buy a book for work and I had some time to kill, so I spent an hour or so at our local bookstore. I found the not-as-dry-as-expected book for work then spent some time in the art and design section. I kept gravitating toward books related to hand lettering. One might say it was a subconscious realization that my handwriting has devolved to being nearly illegible, but I’m going to stick with the reasoning that I want to learn more about a current design trend.

A lettering book, sketch book, and set of colors pencils on a white background.

I ended up choosing “The ABC of Custom Lettering” by Ivan Castro, and I’m so glad I did. I’m about halfway through reading it, and all I can think is how amazing it would be to take a class in person from Castro. He gives some history about the types of letterforms then walks through the basics and gives practice exercises. The lessons build on each other. I don’t want to say they become more complex; it’s more that each lesson develops skills that are useful in the next lesson, just as in elementary school we learned to print before we learned cursive.

I haven’t tried any of the exercises yet. I’m more of a “read the entire book then go back and do the exercises” type of person. I guess I like to know what I’m getting myself into before I start something new!

Plus, there’s the little detail of acquiring the proper supplies. I’m pretty sure I have a pen and nib hidden away somewhere, but I know that my ink — if it hasn’t dried out — is not what Castro recommends. Please don’t remind me that I can order supplies online or make a quick stop into a chain craft store; I’m relishing the excuse to immerse myself in the local art supply store!

Pencils with multi-colored leads lined up along the top of a green book cover on a white background.

You’ll notice that the photo also includes a small sketch book and a set of pencils. I couldn’t resist them, even if they aren’t the right kind for the early exercises in the book. The pencils, which I also haven’t tried yet, look fun because each pencil lead is made from multiple colors. I’m confident that by the end of the book I’ll have found a use for them.

Family Album knitting book by Kaffe Fassett and Zoe Hunt on a white background.

A few days later, our library was having its semi-annual book sale. I picked up “Family Album” by Kaffe Fassett and Zoë Hunt for a quarter! The book was originally published in the 1980s, and the styling definitely reflects that. Some of the patterns don’t look like they would be too hard to modernize; I think it would mostly be a matter of adjusting the waistbands, sleeve cuffs, and collars. In any event, the colorwork is fun and timeless, and could easily be incorporated into other patterns.

In closing, I’ll leave you with this quote I came across from Hrant Papazian: “Nothing made by a human can avoid personal expression, and nothing made for a human should avoid personal expression.”

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

I changed my mind.

Last week at the end of my post, I wrote about knitting Meander Mitts by René E. Wells from Moda Dea Bamboo Wool for my youngest daughter. The pattern is worked in a sport weight yarn on US-3 (3.25 mm) needles. Bamboo Wool is a worsted weight that calls for needles between US-4 (3.5 mm) and US-7 (4.5 mm).

A pair of hand knit blue fingerless on a white background.

After I knit a swatch from the Bamboo Wool, I preferred the fabric that resulted from using US-6 (4.0 mm) needles. So now, in addition to scaling the pattern down to child size, I was going to have to further adapt the pattern to suit a very different gauge. At that rate, I may as well write my own pattern — and I simply wasn’t up for it this week.

I went back to Ravelry and found Maize by Tin Can Knits. (No, I'm not affiliated with any of them.) It’s a free pattern that includes a range of fives sizes from toddler to adult large, and options for both fingerless mitts and full mittens. And it calls for worsted/aran weight yarn.

The backs of a child's hands wearing hand knit blue fingerless mitts on a white background.

My daughter’s hand circumference is only 6” but I couldn’t bring myself to make the toddler size for an eight-year-old. Happily, my gauge was also off; on US-6 (4.0 mm) needles, I was getting 22 stitches per four inches while the pattern calls for 20 stitches per four inches. The difference was enough that I thought the child size would knit up about right.

A child's hands wearing hand knit blue fingerless mitts and holding an American football on a white background.

I set to work, and the pattern worked up quickly and easily. I made one mitt on the first evening and let my daughter try it on the next morning. It fit perfectly — dare I say, like a glove! The second mitt was done that evening, and I don’t think she’s taken them off yet. They’re exactly what she wanted so she can catch a football without it stinging her hands.

Sometimes a change of plans is just what’s needed.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Knitting in Public

Four months ago, I started knitting a pair of red socks. Today, I’m wearing them!

Top view of feet wearing hand knit red wool socks on a white background.

I pushed to finish the socks this week, taking them with me almost everywhere. It helped me get more knitting done, and an added benefit was seeing the reactions from others. I knit socks on four double-point needles; all of the little points sticking out in every direction seem to draw more attention than typical knitting on two straight needles.

As I was knitting at a few of my daughter’s basketball games, I was inevitably asked what I was knitting. The reply of “socks” seemed to take people aback, as if they needed a minute to process that socks are something that people still make.

Close up top view of feet wearing hand knit red wool socks on a white background.

There was the grandmother who reminisced about her mother teaching her to knit when she was very young. (She didn’t continue knitting as she grew up.) There was the mother from the opposing team who perked up when she saw me and announced that she brought knitting too. (She was making a multi-colored pastel scarf with a bulky yarn.) There were all of the curious faces of younger siblings, peeking over at me to try to figure out what I was doing. And there were even a few basketball players watching the knitting instead of the game, although thankfully from the bench rather than from the court!

Anyone who thinks that knitting equates to loneliness has clearly never knit in public.

Vogue Knitting magazine opened to mitt pattern page and a skein of blue Moda Dea Bamboo Wool on a white background.

As far as the fingerless mitts that I mentioned last week, it took some time for my youngest to pick just the right blue yarn from my stash. Her choice is Moda Dea Bamboo Wool (which is so discontinued that even Moda Dea no longer exists) in the colorway 3845 Blue Velvet. It’s a blend of 55% rayon from bamboo and 45% wool, which should give the mitts both warmth and durability.

After she chose the yarn, I found a pattern in the Fall 2009 issue of Vogue Knitting that I think will work well: Meander Mitts by René E. Wells (no affiliations to either site). Next up will be measuring my youngest's hands to see if the pattern can be easily scaled down from an adult size to a child size. I don’t expect it to be a problem, but you never know.

Do you have any fun stories of knitting — or making other types of projects — in public?

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

This and That

Before starting this blog, I don’t think I realized how much I jump from project to project. I’d like to say that I’ll stick to one project at a time for more cohesive blog posts going forward, but I don’t know how realistic that is. Some projects are better for working on at home, while others are good for taking on the go. Some require total concentration, and others can be done while talking and watching television. Some need to be finished to meet a deadline or requirement, and some are for fun with no end goal. As I go through life’s changes, the projects go through changes too.

This week, I made a lot of little things.

Between a couple of months’ worth of my Jimmy Beans Wool Beanie Bags subscription and the extra yarn from the Drinker’s Mitts, I had a backup of yarn to knit into my two scrap blankets. I worked my way through it all so my worktable is free of clutter, but now I have a backup of ends to weave!

Colorful hand knit blanket made from sock weight wool scraps in mitered square blocks with unwoven ends sticking up on a white background.

Colorful hand knit blanket made from worsted weight wool scraps in mitered square blocks with unwoven ends sticking up on a white background.

It was time for another Quilt Night this past weekend. I’m still working on my hand quilted queen size quiltThe last time I posted about it, I had just rounded the last corner and had five blocks and their corresponding borders left to quilt. Now, I’m down to about two-and-three-quarters blocks and their borders. Everything that’s left to be quilted fit easily in one photo!

Unfinished border of Bride's Bouquet quilt in a round hand quilting frame.

And after all of the posts about the Red Socks this summer, starting with my June 28 post, I have to admit that they’re not done yet. I’m about to turn the heel for the second sock. My original goal was to finish the second sock this week …

Completed hand knit red wool sock next to one in progress on metal double point knitting needles and a ball of yarn on a white background.

… But then my youngest requested a pair of fingerless mitts. It’s starting to get chilly here, particularly in the mornings, so they can definitely be of use right away. I need to go through my stash with her to pick a yarn before picking a pattern.

The socks might have to wait a little longer.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Apple Season

Fall is definitely here! The leaves are changing color, the temperatures are dropping, and football is on the television. I’m still knitting and quilting, but I’m also doing more baking. As far as fall dessert flavors, pumpkin spice doesn’t excite me but apple pie does!

Five McIntosh apples on a white background.

In our home, McIntosh apples are a favorite for desserts. Part of that may be because I grew up in an area where McIntosh apples were prevalent. I’ve read that they’re not generally considered a popular choice for cooking or baking because they break down easily. We actually prefer that softness.

Now, we live in an area where McIntosh apples aren’t as readily available. We can find them, but they’re not at every store and they’re only in stock for a brief period of time. Last week, I found them for the first time this season.

One of the biggest lessons that I remember from seventh grade home economics class is this: If you’re going to go through the effort to make one pie, you might as well make two.

I didn’t set out to buy all of the Macs, I simply picked out enough apples for two pies. We like really full pies, which means I always aim for nine apples per pie. After I picked out 18 apples, there were only four left. I thought most people would look at those four lonely apples and assume there was a reason they were left behind. I couldn’t leave them to languish like that.

Rustic apple tart with cut out leaf shapes in the center on a wood background.

I had visions of creating masterpieces with beautifully decorated crusts to put up on this blog. Instead, I had a houseful of helpers to keep me company, and part of creating is learning what works and what doesn’t work. They struggled to get the crust moist enough to stay together well, and that made decoration less of a priority.

Close up of top of apple pie with a ghost shape cut out of the center of the crust.

We ended up with one tart made from three apples, and two pies made from nine-and-a-half apples each. We used fall-themed cookie cutters on the tart and one pie, and playfully inserted a pie bird into the other pie.

Top view of an apple pie with a black pie bird in the center next to a half full glass pie pan and a spatula on a silver background.

We enjoyed eating them together as much as we enjoyed making them together, and that makes them masterpieces in my book.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Making Good Decisions

Last week, I wrote about a pair of mittens that I was finishing up. They’re done now!

A pair of colorful speckled hand knit mittens resting on a white background with the palm side showing.

Notice how the colors in the right-hand mitten pool more than in the left-hand mitten? It seems I was a little more tense while knitting that right-hand mitten. The fabric is just the slightest bit tighter on that mitten and it was enough to alter the color pattern. It’s a perfect example of the nature of handmade products! Those little variations prove that something was made by a person rather than by a machine.

The mittens used up almost a full skein of Madelinetosh Tosh Merino DK in the colorway Electric Rainbow. I had purchased two skeins, so after I completed the mittens I had some decisions to make. Should I add the second skein to my stash? Maybe I should exchange it at the store for another colorway, or simply return it altogether and feel good about having the money back in my wallet? Or maybe I should get some solid-colored yarn and try that mitten pattern again as it was originally intended with stranded colorwork?

I had the yarn and receipt packed in my bag, ready to be returned or exchanged. However, before I had a chance to go back to the store, I decided that I liked the idea of making a hat to go with the mittens. I don’t wear hats very often, but I keep hearing that this is supposed to be a harsh winter. And those mittens aren’t going to coordinate with just any old hat.

Back view of girl wearing colorful slouchy hand knit Rikke hat with a bright blue background.

I spent a little time on Ravelry and found the free Rikke Hat pattern by Sarah Young, which has great reviews and looks very comfortable. It turned out to be a great choice. The pattern was simple and quick, and the hat is as comfortable and warm as it looks. I can’t decide whether I like this colorway better in stockinette stitch or garter stitch!

The cast-on for the hat is the German Twist method, which was new to me. It’s not too different from the standard long-tail cast-on, but it has more stretch. I think it’ll be my new go-to cast-on for a lot of projects. Here’s a Lucy Neatby video showing the German Twist cast-on:

In closing, I’ve been reading the book “Creativity, Inc.” by Ed Catmull this week. I’m about three-quarters through, and I’m really enjoying his take on managing creativity within a business environment. This line stood out to me today: “Craft is what we are expected to know; art is the unexpected use of our craft.”

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Winter is coming.

Last week, the temperatures dipped to the low-60s with some rain and it felt like perfect weather to start a pair of mittens for myself. This week’s weather is a completely different story; temperatures are back in the mid-80s with sunshine. Regardless of the weather right now, winter is coming and I’m going to be happy to have these mittens when it does!

One completed colorful hand knit mitten below a mitten in progress on bamboo double point knitting needles next to a ball of wool yarn on a white background.

The yarn is Madelinetosh Tosh Merino DK in the colorway Electric Rainbow, which I bought at a local yarn shop a couple weeks ago. The pattern is North Iceland Mittens by Marcia Lewandowski in the book “Folk Mittens.”

The pattern was written for stranded colorwork, but I’m knitting it in only the one yarn. I like the shape of the mittens and think the simple two-by-one rib and stockinette stitch highlight the variety of colors within the yarn. This simplified version of the pattern is easy to follow and has worked up quickly. It would be fun to make the intended colorwork version, even using this same colorful yarn again along with some solid colors.

A hand wearing a completed colorful hand knit mitten in the foreground, in front of a mitten in progress on bamboo double point knitting needles next to a ball of wool yarn on a white background.

The only other change I made to the pattern was to move the base of the thumb up by nine rows. I was concerned that the top of the ribbing and the base of the thumb might be a little too close for the way I like to wear my mittens. I like them loose and a little big! As I look at them now, I could have cut that increase down to four or five rows and still ended up with a comfortable mitten, but I don’t dislike them the way they are.

Before I started knitting the mittens, I was unsure whether the colors would pool. On the first mitten there is some pooling but it’s not too obvious. On the second mitten, using the same skein of yarn, the pooling is much more noticeable. I think my gauge changed just enough to make a visual difference.

One completed colorful hand knit mitten under a ball of wool yarn and next to a mitten in progress on bamboo double point knitting needles on a white background.

Overall, both mittens remind me of impressionist paintings and I’m really happy with the results. The fabric is so soft and cozy! They’re going to make me smile when I wear them.

Now, as I’m completing the second mitten, I’m thinking ahead to what I can do with the leftovers from the second skein. I could make a coordinating project such as a hat, or pick up some yarn in solid colors to make another pair of mittens using the original colorwork pattern. I may not need the second skein to finish this pair of mittens, and in that case I’ll need to decide whether to keep it, return it, or maybe exchange it for another colorway. So many choices!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

It's that time of year again.

It’s time to create something to donate to a fundraising event at my children’s school. This year they are having their usual auction but they are also having a wine event for parents and adult friends of the school. With this in mind, I set out to choose a pattern.

Pair of hand knit colorwork Drinkers Mitts in blue with details in white, yellow, purple, brown and orange on a white background.

On Ravelry, I found a great free pattern: Drinker’s Mitts by Jaime Kulick. They’re fun and practical at the same time, and will work well for either fundraiser.

I had a lot of fun knitting the mitts. I chose Cascade Yarns Cascade 220® Fingering yarn. I like the Cascade 220® line because it offers a good, basic wool at a reasonable price and comes in a wide range of colors. (No, I’m not affiliated with them.) It was fun to browse through the colors online while I was having a sick day at home.

Hand knit blue cuff and beginnings of colorwork on Drinkers Mitts using bamboo double point knitting needles next to balls of blue, orange and white yarn on a white background.

The school’s main color is navy blue, so I kept that as the background color just as in the pattern’s photos. I made a point of using yellow and white, which are two of the school’s accent colors. The colors for the main local university are navy blue, orange, and white, and that helped me choose the orange for the bottom row of drinks. From there, it was a matter of choosing other colors that coordinated well while making sense for the drinks they represent: brown and purple.

Palm side of hand wearing knit colorwork Drinkers Mitt in blue with details in white, yellow, purple, brown and orange on a white background.

The pattern was easy to follow, and it was fun to say things like “It’s time for another round of beer!” (Get it? Round of knitting, not round of drinks! Ha!) The biggest change I made was to add three rounds of stockinette stitch in the background color after the last beer stein round; I didn’t want the foam on the top row to get lost in the ribbing. To make up for the extra length, I then knit only eight rounds of ribbing at the top instead of ten. The only other change was to switch the direction of the beer stein handles on the second mitt so the mitts are symmetrical.

Back of hand wearing knit colorwork Drinkers Mitt in blue with details in white, yellow, purple, brown and orange with second mitt out of focus on a white background.

I went through about half a skein of the navy blue background yarn, but only small amounts of yardage for the accent colors. This would be a great project for scrap yarn.

I’ve been asked if I’ll make a pair for myself, and I don’t think I will. They’re not really “me,” although I’ll keep the pattern in mind for gift knitting because I know a lot of people who would love them. In the meantime, I have a pair of mittens in the works that are more my style — blog post coming soon!